Special to WorldTribune, April 28, 2022
An incisive article published earlier this month lays out a strong indictment of California as a dying state. The crucial point: It’s even worse than you think.
Joel Kotkin has earned a reputation as a perceptive critic of outdated modes of urbanism that no longer serve people well. Of course, the urbanite cocoon is the very bubble most progressive Democrats find themselves vacuum-sealed in, intellectually if not always physically.
Kotkin’s April 13 piece in Real Clear Investigations, titled “California’s Vanished Dream, by the Numbers,” does an outstanding job in illustrating how the visible collapse of The Golden State and its urban centers bodes poorly for grandiose Democrat visions of social engineering, which often amount to little more than rigid societal control plans built to function best on densely populated grids.
While the case made is a strong one, the conclusion is debatable. For everything Kotkin describes can also be seen as in perfect keeping with an even more formidable force in the world today, and one not remotely on the wane. World Economic Forum head Klaus Schwab’s infamous quote, “you will own nothing and you will be happy,” and the dual society he and his fellow managerial elites have been planning can see in California great advances toward the future they have in mind.
Think of Silicon Valley billionaires as the ultra-elite Haves and hard-pressed regular Californians as the helot Have-Nots and a clearer picture of what The Great Reset will really be like comes into focus.
Kotkin does not filter his words through a rosy lens:
In a new report for Chapman University, my colleagues and I find California in a state of existential crisis, losing both its middle-aged and middle class, while its poor population faces dimming prospects. Despite the state’s myriad advantages, research shows it plagued by economic immobility and inequality, crushing housing and energy costs, and a failing education system. Worse than just a case of progressive policies creating regressive outcomes, it appears California is descending into something resembling modern-day feudalism, with the poor and weak trapped by policies subsidized by taxes paid by the rich and powerful.
The state run by Woke politicians who carp endlessly about racial and social justice has an astonishingly large proportion of its residents living in poverty, and blacks and Hispanics are chief among them:
[T]oday the state suffers the highest cost-adjusted poverty rate in the U.S. The poor and near-poor constitute over one third – well over 10 million – of the state’s residents according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Los Angeles, by far the state’s largest metropolitan area, and once a magnet for middle class aspirations, has one of the highest poverty rates among major U.S. cities. A United Way of California analysis shows that over 30 percent of residents lack sufficient income to cover basic living costs even after accounting for public-assistance programs; this includes half of Latino and 40 percent of black residents. Some two-thirds of noncitizen Latinos live at or below the poverty line.
Kotkin touches on the plague of retail crime in the state, including the ever-increasing incidents of brazen smash-and-grab robberies at retail stores, often in broad daylight. He warns that this is a sign of something more than just an alarming spike in lawlessness. It is a dire effect of the expanding wealth gap in the state.
While Silicon Valley is thriving, good job opportunities become more and more sparse for regular Californians:
Over the past decade more than 80 percent of California jobs paid under the median income, and most under $40,000 annually, a poverty wage in California. Worse yet, as demonstrated in our analysis, California lags all peer competitors – Texas, Arizona, Tennessee, Nevada, Washington and Colorado – in creating high wage jobs in fields like business and professional services, as even tech growth begins to shift elsewhere.
The biggest losers in California have been those industries that historically provided the best opportunities for working-class people – manufacturing, construction, energy – as well as agriculture, the state’s historic economic powerhouse. On a per capita basis, California builds only a fraction of the housing compared to its main rivals, while corporate new investment, suggests a new Hoover Institution study, has shriveled to a rate one-tenth Texas and one-sixteenth that of Ohio.
Overcrowding, due in great part to massive illegal immigration, which Kotkin does not mention, has spurred a predictable housing crisis. Democrat politicians have encouraged the construction of high-density housing units as opposed to the single-family homes that once defined the American Dream. The result has been more economic hardship and greater personal unhappiness.
The following three paragraphs are devastating:
California has the highest urban density of any state, yet suffers the second highest housing costs and rents of any state except Hawaii. On this issue, some media coverage appears to have been influenced by the pro-density preferences of tech titans like Mark Zuckerberg.
Striving, largely minority middle- and working-class families bear the brunt of such policies. According to a recent American Enterprise Institute survey, California is home to six of the nation’s worst markets for first-time homebuyers. It would take more than 100 years for the median-income household to save for a mortgage on a median-priced home in San Francisco, Los Angeles or San Jose.
The state now ranks 49th in homeownership rate, producing far less new housing than competitive regions like Arizona, Texas or Florida. A recent study by economist John Husing found not one unionized construction worker can afford a median-priced home in any coastal California county.
Toss in a disastrous state educational system that long ago sacrificed learning for political correctness and it is quickly becoming impossible for the young and hopefully upwardly mobile to live in California any longer:
Simply put, California is in danger of losing its youthful mojo. Many of those leaving, according to IRS data, come from young, middle and working class families. When these people leave, birthrates plummet. Los Angeles and San Francisco rank last and second-to-last in birthrates among the 53 U.S. major metropolitan areas. Among California’s big metros, only Riverside/San Bernardino exceeds the national average in women aged between 15 and 50 with births. California’s total fertility rate, long above the national average, is now the nation’s 10th lowest. Los Angeles County alone has lost three quarters of a million people under 25 over the past twenty years.
An urban-oriented “central planning” mindset has proven destructive on an enormous level in the most populous state in America. Yet it can also be argued that all these disasters unfolding on the West Coast do not mark the end of a failed progressive civic vision so much as the beginning of an elitist globalist plan to create the very feudal society Kotkin warns California is becoming.
Wealth inequity? It’s already being normalized. The Hollywood Reporter on Dec. 22 painted a bleak picture of California as a New Brazil, with the super-wealthy attempting to wall themselves off from the societal decline existing all around them:
Private security contractors report that a recent string of high-profile retail robberies and home burglaries in upscale Los Angeles neighborhoods has caused a dramatic uptick in requests for their services and prompted many of their wealthy clients to change their routines out of a mix of caution and fear….
Since late August, Rising S Company has completed risk assessments for multiple high-end clients in L.A. and installed 13 safe rooms, nine safe doors, two underground bunker shelters, and two window fortifications in Brentwood Park, Beverly Park and Paradise Cove, says general manager Gary Lynch. This compares to their installation of seven safe rooms in California in the 2.5 years prior.
Estate manager Bryan Peele, president and founder of the L.A.-based Estate Managers Coalition, told THR that his clients have “fully equipped safe rooms that they can live in for a few days, if necessary, that are completely hard-wired with phone cables, Internet, everything.”
Housing density and unaffordability? Private equity goliath Blackstone has been gobbling up homes across America for a year now in order to turn them into permanent rentals. This puts individual home buyers at a disadvantage and leads to punitive rent increases for those who cannot afford to buy a home in the speculation-inflated market.
An urbanized and dependent populace is far easier to control than an fiercely independent, land-owning citizenry. A former New York City mayor, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and mega-billionaire has said that supersized cities will supplant nations in the new world order to come.
“The world’s first Metropolitan Generation is coming of age, and as a result, the world will be shaped increasingly by metropolitan values,” Michael Bloomberg wrote in a 2015 article for the globalist publication Foreign Affairs. “That is a hopeful development for humanity, and an overpowering counterweight to the forces of repression and intolerance that arise out of religious fanaticism and that now pose a grave threat to the security of democratic nations.”
“As those in the Metropolitan Generation assume leadership positions, cities will become not just more culturally significant but also more politically powerful,” Bloomberg added. “Influence will shift gradually away from national governments and toward cities.”
“As California goes, so goes the nation,” the old quote went. California is spiraling into an unlivable hellhole. And the plan is for the rest of the United States to follow.